Elmatica Expects Copper Foil Shortage to Last Longer


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Printed circuit broker Elmatica encourages open dialogue around the copper situation and its consequences. With several governments desiring a shift towards cleaner new-energy vehicles, and an all-electric automotive industry, the copper shortage will last longer than first anticipated.

"Now is the time to react, inform and plan," said Elmatica COO Raymond Goh. "The copper output has not increased, and the demand for copper in lithium batteries is not reducing; the copper foil shortage still persists. There are no signs in the near future that it will change, especially now with the recent governmental statements from France, UK, Scotland, and China, who have all announced a possible future ban towards fossil-fueled vehicles."

"Adding further tension to the copper shortage is China’s plan to ban waste imports, which is a significant source of recycled copper," added Goh. "Other actors will continue this work, however, it will only create a temporary decrease in supply. These aspects and other elements such as zero new copper mines and closed mines will affect the supply chain of copper and turn the copper clad foil situation for the PCB industry."

Time to React

Lately, the industry has seen just the beginning of the most significant seismic shift in the automotive industry, the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric vehicles. China has set a goal for electric and plug-in hybrid cars such that they shall make up at least a fifth of its auto sales by 2025. The United Kingdom and France have said they will ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Norway has suggested a deadline between 2025 and 2040.

"Now is the time to react. The PCB industry needs to start communicating about this challenge. At Elmatica we urge open dialogue since we all are facing the same issues. The automotive industry will not shift overnight; the production line takes time to adjust," said Goh. "The continued shortage of glass yarn also reduces the output of glass cloth used in laminates and prepreg.One of the worlds largest CCL manufacturers has recently issued a notice to its customers, informing them of a reduced output until the end of 2017 due to insufficient glass cloth."

Expected Price Increase

The current stable situation of the CCL supply is due to the fact that the overall printed circuit demand has dropped in recent months, partially due to a lack of components, and not due to an increased supply of CCL in general. The question is, what will happen over the next months when Chinese New Year is coming, copper is scarce, and the supply of components stabilizes?

"If everyone starts placing orders for PCBs at the same time, then a temporary shortage of CCL can be the end result. This will consequently increase the likelihood of a new round of price increases," said Goh.

Elmatica advises their customers to prepare an accurate forecast, place orders in advance, and plan for longer lead-time. Said Goh, "Another piece of advice is to approve more than one type of laminate, several printed circuit manufacturers, and analyze one's portfolio of PCB in relation to copper thickness and type of base material. The whole supply chain needs to work together."

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